Life-Giving Identity

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 2/21/2021

This morning is special. Once every year, we designate a Sunday (usually in February) to celebrate everything God’s accomplished in the previous year. We also affirm our slate of Elders and Trustees for the upcoming ministry year. At the end of this service we want to encourage members to stick around a few extra minutes, get a copy of our Annual Report to affirm our 2021 leaders by ballot.

It is my opinion, that in 2020, Satan tried to deliver a catastrophic blow to universal body of Christ. Churches around the world were devastated economically as people’s livelihoods, life savings, and careers were destroyed.

Churches were devastated relationally, as worldly divisions pitted young against old, black against white, Christian nationalists against woke activists, left against right, republicans against democrats. Every possible division was exploited—relationships and families were torn apart.

Churches were devastated spiritually. First the devil divided us against one another. Then he isolated us, and quarantined us. Then he made us fearful of being with one another (even greeting one another). Think about it. We feel depressed being apart; we feel anxious and neurotic when together! No thanks.

Churches are fortunate if they’ve retained 50% participation and engagement. Lakeside is no exception. We’re still here—but I’m not going to pull any punches. Half our people have gone radio silent. 10% have elevated health risks and are watching from home. 10% have jumped state lines moved away. 10% let worldly divisions, movements, and philosophies take them captive. 20% fell out of habit, or fell out of love with Lakeside, or keep hitting snooze button on God.

If I were the last man standing at Lakeside, I’d still get up the next day and keep preaching Jesus and keep building His Kingdom. Our church has been sifted by Satan and refined by fire. Here’s what we’re going to do—we’re going to keep gathering, and engaging, giving, and serving, preaching, and loving, believing on Jesus, becoming like Jesus, building Christ’s Kingdom, braving Jesus’ mission in our world. Praying, disciplemaking. . . The gates of hell cannot and will not prevail against Christ’s church. In 2021, we’re sending the devil packing by making Jesus famous!

*Churches like Lakeside (not just Lakeside) will emerge stronger. Period.

Okay, this morning we’re in Galatians 4. We’re in Week 8 of our Soul Freedom series. And last week we ended on the high note of Galatians 3:27-29, “For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.”

These words have everything to do with salvation, and are in no way some kind of cloaked nod to modern social justice movements, Marxist philosophy, or modern political class warfare. The context of Galatians 3:27-29 has to do with legal inheritance. Who can spiritually or legally or personally inherit God’s salvation promise to Abraham. Is it just the Jew, who is a literal flesh and blood (racial, genetic) descendant of Abraham? Is it just the fully privileged, legal and freemen of nationalistic (Israeli) heritage? Is it just the firstborn “males” who inherit the Father’s estate?

NOPE!!! Just look at the context. Galatians 3:29! You are all heirs according to. . . DRUM ROLL. . . PROMISE! Jew or Greek? Nah. Slave or free status? Immaterial. Male or female? Irrelevant. God made a promise to you. If you by faith trust God’s Word and God’s word alone. If you through faith, in baptism accept God’s promise, if you gave your life to Jesus and belong to Him. . . you have been clothed with Christ. Your sin, your past, your former ignorance. . . you have been rescued and redeemed and reclothed and are now an official HEIR of God.

Let me assure you. God doesn’t erase you to save you. He doesn’t erase our uniqueness, our beauty, our diversity, our masculinity or femininity, or our gender. He redeems it! I want to keep pointing us back to Galatians 2:20—for I think these words exemplify our new identity in Christ. What changed? Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

In Galatians 4 Paul continues to amplify the same basic truths he’s enumerated in Galatians 2-3. We can never go too far in clarifying the gospel! Instead of reading all the verses in Galatians 4, let me hit a few highlights.

First, We are Under God’s Promise-Based Covenant with Abraham. Religion is all about us making a promise to God, and then slavishly, in fear, working away, trying to earn, achieve, merit, perform, obey, keep up our end of the bargain. Religion enslaves, imprisons, kills the soul! Religion keeps you up all night long, perplexed, questioning, “Am I good enough? Do I measure up? Am I saved?”

What is true Christian faith? In true Christian faith God’s word, God’s promise, settles once and for all any questions, doubts, or uncertainties about our true identity. Galatians 4:4-7, “When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.”

What settles our identity is what Christ has done, not who we are or what we have done. In Galatians 4:8-11 Paul warns the Galatians against two errors. First, they were all Galatians, Greeks, or Gentiles. Before they trusted Christ, they put their trust in elemental things—elemental philosophy—worldly beliefs, systems, ideas, politics. The Greeks believed the most basic building blocks (elements) of reality was earth, wind, fire, water. They didn’t know God. Paul says, error number one, don’t go back to the Paganism that God saved you from!

These Galatians (Greeks/Gentiles) were being infiltrated by Judaizers. Judaizers were Jewish zealots who trying to “Judaize” the world. They wanted to put everyone under the slavish yoke of Moses, and the Law, and the Torah. The Judaizers were violent bullies—extremely intimidating—a kind of self-appointed God mafia—a God squad. Their end game was to make people submit to the Law of Moses. Look what Paul says … danger number two…. Galatians 4:10-11, “You are observing special days, months, seasons, and years. I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted.”

For the Christian, in Paul’s mind, going back to Paganism was just as cursed as going back to Judaism. Your paganism can no more save you than these spiritual bullies’ Judaism, your religiosity, your works, your law abiding, your performing. Your whole relationship with God rises and falls on HIS PROMISE.

Galatians 3:18, “For if the inheritance (salvation, blessing) is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise; but God has graciously given it to Abraham through the promise.”

We are sons and daughters in Christ-alone. On the merits of what Christ has done, not what we do. God’s Spirit testifies that we are sons and daughters. By the Spirit of God, we cry out to God “Abba” Father. We don’t cry out as outsiders, as slaves, “Master.” We call out as God’s very own children, “Father.” In Galatians 4:12-20 Paul reminds these Galatians that he himself defected from Judaism to embrace this promise-based, faith-based reliance upon Christ.

Second, We are Saved God’s Way and Never Our Way. Look at Galatians 4:19-20, “My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. I would like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you.”

What a potent image! Paul is saying, “I am like a mother giving birth. I’m like a mother trying to bring a new babe into the world, into this glorious new birth, this born again, life in Christ, by God’s Spirit. I am in the throes of childbirth. I’m screaming. I’m in agony. Has all I’ve done been in vain?” This is the same tone Paul struck back in Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh?”

Folks, there is only one way to blessing and its God’s way. There will always be worldly voices that will tempt, “Not by God’s Spirit, not by faith, not by promise, but by your flesh, by your works, by your own strength!” In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul sees an illustration of this in a familiar Old Testament story.

When God made his promise to Abraham (to prosper him, to give him land, to make his name great, to give him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, to send forth a seed/a child through whom all nations on earth would be blessed). . . do you remember what happened? Sarah, Abraham’s wife, laughed. She said Abraham you are an old man. My womb is barren. We’re older than the hills. God can’t do it! In fact, Sarah grabbed her slave Hagar, offered her to Abraham, and said, “Here, have a child through her not me!” And Abraham did!

But that wasn’t God’s way, nor his promise. God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son. Galatians 4:27 God says to Sarah, “Rejoice, childless woman, unable to give birth. Burst into song and shout, you who are not in labor, for the children of the desolate woman will be many, more numerous than those of the woman who has a husband.”

Sarah made a huge mess. Abraham had a son named Ishmael through Hagar, and a son named Isaac through Sarah. Sarah had to drive out Hagar and Ishmael because they became resentful persecuting Sarah and Isaac. God in his grace took care of Hagar and Ishmael… but here is Paul’s point. Nothing we do in the flesh can change, alter terms of God’s promise and plan. Not by power or by might but by my spirit!

SHOW GALATIANS 4:6-7 on SCREEN. >> Luke 15. Prodigal Son. Younger son lives life a slave to sinful desires (Like Gentile). Elder son lives life a slave to letter law (like Judaizer). Both have to come to terms that Father extends sonship on basis of his own love and promise. . .

Scripture Verses

Galatians 3:27-4:31; Luke 15

Worship Playlist

God of the Promise by Elevation Worship

Cover the Earth by Kari Jobe

Who You Say I Am by Hillsong

Study Questions

1. From this passage, what was our identity before Christ?

2. What did Christ accomplish for us and how did He do it?

3. What is our new identity? Read Romans 8:13-17. What is the distinctive mark of God’s children?

4. What is Paul’s concern for these new children of God? What might be Paul’s concern for you?

5. As children, what is our inheritance? (See Ephesians 1:7; 2:7; Philippians 4:19; Romans 2:4; 11:33-36 and Colossians 1:19-2:3) Write a prayer of thanksgiving.

Apply It!